January 23, 2013

Drugs, Sex, and Rock and Roll, or the European Equivelant.

Journal entry torn from December 22, 2012

"It's only my third day and already I've tasted more alcohol, inhaled more cigarette smoke, and I've been higher than I have in my whole life. Of course this is because I tasted alcohol for the first time. I unknowingly ate cake that was made with some. Apparently the best Black Forest Cake in the Black Forest can be found at Schmidt Cafe. I thought for sure I could handle the cake side of German culture. I couldn't even finish half of the piece of cake, because I felt so incredibly sick and it tasted so incredible awful. It felt like there was a large amount of acid in my stomach, and the after taste, I assure you, did not go away for a very long time. I know I was pretty adamant before about not drinking, but this has definitely reaffirmed that decision. As for the cigarette smoke, it seems like almost every person here smokes, and all over the place. In the train station, at all of the tram stops, EVERYWHERE. The second hand smoke has probably take a year off of my life. That's not to say I'm not enjoying myself. I say "higher" because it's quite mountanious over here, and I'm pretty sure my longest flight reached 38000 feet. I've also been quite high on excitment. I'm not exactly sure what I have planned for the remainer of the trip, but I know that Christmas will be fun, and my birthday, because even walking, and staying up late is more fun in a foreign country.

-A more worldly Annie"

Thank goodness for great friends who will finish your cake when you think it tastes icky. And thank goodness for friends who will order you a chocolate covered ginger cookie in German to make up for a terrible cake experience. There was one thing that I really enjoyed about the cafe: there was no rush. Once your food was finished you were welcome to stay as long as you'd like. There was no rushing, no waitress hovering with the bill, and this cafe even had a free washroom. Imagine that!

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

The famous cafe
Looks delicious! (Looks can be deceiving!)
 Kaly is a trooper!
(yes my piece of cake was the lucky one with the cherry pit)
My cookie!!!! mmmmmmm

January 16, 2013

Know Beans About It

Last weekend I made a large batch of chili. It was wonderful, it tasted just like my mom's chili. In fact I think it's the first dish that I've made since being out on my own that actually compares to home. My chili consisted of herb tomato sauce, prego tomato sauce, extra lean ground beef, chopped celery, grated carrot, corn, a few kidney beans, and clubhouse chili mix. I'm so happy that I froze a few portions for later. Anyway, what I really want to share with you is what happened with my chili today. I heated some up in my new tupperware container, devoured the entire amount, and then went to wash my dish. I rised it out, and then spent a solid five minutes scrubbing at a stain on the dish. I tried dish soap and a cloth, I tried a sponge, I tried the rough side of the sponge, but nothing was working. Now you should also know that my container has a clear bottom, so that makes it especially difficult to tell where the stain really is. While I was scrubbing one side, the stain was just sitting pretty on the other. 

I'm not trying to over think things, but this situation did remind me of life. It doesn't matter how much we try to clean up the outside, change the way we act and change what we say, we really aren't cleaned up until we deal with the other side, the most important side, the inside. When our heart is in our actions, thoughts, and words, we have the potential to live life to the full. So instead of keeping a mental checklist of actions I do or do not do this week, I think I'll spend a little more time praying, and making sure my heart is in the right place, after all, everything I do flows from it (Pro. 4:23).

January 11, 2013


While in Germany I went to some magical places, and high on the list were the not one, but TWO IKEAs that I perused. Let me tell you, IKEA is so much more than what is presented in 500 Days of Summer. Kaly and I spent hours in the store. We pretended to wash dishes, we sat on couches, and we roamed. IKEA is filled with a kitchen for every mood you could possibly be in. There are enough living rooms to keep you inspired for at least six months. There are so many fun lamps that I'm sure you'd want them all, and that you would want to leave them on all day and night. There are incredibly innovative storage items, and organizing tools; such as bookshelves built into the side of the headboards, and rods with hanging buckets. IKEA sells pasta shaped like moose, boxes of alphabet crackers with only the letters "I," "K," "E," and "A," and they even sell packaged meatballs. The cafeteria (yes there is a cafeteria, you'd have to have a food source after spending hours upon hours in one place) is ginormous with delicious food (and that means a lot coming from someone who is deemed by others as a "picky eater"). Both times in IKEA I ordered the swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh, the mashed potatoes, my favourite food; they were even done right. No garlic! And the portion size! My land, the small size was enough to stuff me to the brim, but I made sure to make the most out of the, wait for it, free refills on drinks! That's right! Coffee, tea, cappuccino, pop, juice, water!
My purchases included:

-A Duvet Cover and matching pillowcase (featured to the right)
-A Pluggis (three wall mounted organizing bins)
-A fancy metal rod for the...
 Plastic hanging organizing bins, and hooks.
-A lantern for my mom
-A fancy bowl for the grandparents
-A set of "IKEA Family" pencils and pencil sharpener

I should also mention that it wasn't an incredibly easy journey to and from IKEA, but it was most certainly worth it. Kaly and I took both a tram and a bus to get to the one in Freiburg, and then we stood in the rain and waited for the bus back. After 45 minutes a bus picked us up and we were headed back to the apartment to play with our new IKEA purchases. I was so amazed with how reasonably priced the items were, how Annie-esque they seemed, and how much potential there is for the maritimes. 

January 9, 2013

Good Samaritans Abroad

Aside from the troubles with certain authorities, my travelling journeys were quite seamless. This is largely due to many good samaritans. I discovered sooo many people all around the world that were willing to help me! Do you know how amazingly encouraging this is? 

My very first hour of travelling I was sitting in the Halifax airport waiting to check my bags, when an older woman came over to talk to me to make sure I was content. Her husband too came over to comfort my lonesome self and he gave me a little toy airplane to accompany me on my flights. This, ladies and gentleman, is merely the first instance of several marvellous encounters I had with strangers. 

On my first flight I sat next to a women and her little boy and littler girl who were moving to Dubai. The woman's husband had been promoted to a very important job and so the whole family was on their way to meet him. They were on my next flight too. My flight to Frankfurt was about 8 hours and I was cramped beside a larger french man, who did not, for the record, want my Air Canada three bean salad. Sitting beside him was fun, because the flight attendants assumed my first language was French. I chose the poulet over the pate, when I was asked. My next flight was to Basal, and it was pretty intimidating, you didn't hand in your boarding pass and passport, instead there were scanners with no instructions. I scanned my information and went through the gate....where a bus was waiting. I had no idea what was going on, and it didn't seem like anyone spoke English. I turned to a man with a backpack who looked friendly and I asked him why we were on a bus. I realize now that it seems incredibly silly, but am I to blame? I really was expecting transportation with wings. He explained to me that because it was such a small airport they had to shuttle us to the plane. During the ten minute ride I found out that he was from Rhode Island (I kept the Miss. Congeniality references to myself). He was going to visit his daughter who was studying in Switzerland, and they were taking a vacation together. His brother used to live in Nova Scotia and teach at the Agricultural College. So many connections were made, even half way across the globe. 

Arriving at Basal was not at all what I expected it to be. I expected to rush out the door and see my best friend holding a big sign with my name on it. I expected people eagerly waiting to greet loved ones, but instead I found an almost empty airport. I looked around for Kaly, but to no fault of her own, there was no sign of her. I asked the lady at the help desk if there were any other waiting areas that I could look for her, and very coldly asked if she was waiting on the French or the Swiss side. The airport is on the boarder? There are sides? I asked her how I could look for my friend on the other side of the glass barricade, and so after some confusing instructions I made my way to the Swiss side. Where to my surprise Kaly was not in fact standing. Huff. (At this point she was actually walking over 4 km in the cold). I thought I better go back to the French side, because there were more people over there, but there was no way to get back to the other side of the glass wall, and I tried going outside but there were huge barricades and security guards. I sat in a chair, I walked around will all of my luggage, and I sat again. After about an hour and 20 minutes I started to get a little emotional, I was after all, what I thought, stranded in a foreign country. People literally just stood and stared at me while tears ran down my face. I felt so uncomfortable already that their gawking didn't even faze me. Not long into my packet of pocket tissues a lady came over to see what she could do. There was a bit of a language barrier, but I slowly explained what was wrong. She offered me the use of her phone, helped me to have a name paged throughout the entire airport, and sat with me until she absolutely had to leave. The women at the info desk were much more responsive to her, and they called Kaly who informed us that she was only five minutes away. My good samaritan encounter at Basal was my favourite, while everyone else stood and starred or ignorantly rushed by, this lady came to my aid. I gave her a huge hug and she smiled as I walked away with the reunion that eventually met my expectations, even down to the detail of the sign with my name. 

While in Europe there were many small acts of kindness. A man carried my suitcase up a staircase filled with stairs, without even offering. Another man lifted my suitcase off of a train for me. (I'm seeing a trend here; I might need to learn to pack more lightly.) A man on a train helped Kaly and I to realize that were were definitely on the wrong one, and a conductor gave us quick and clear directions on how to find the right train, which we made, after running at full speed, with seconds to spare. 

On the way back to Canada there was a lovely Russian woman who helped me find a fountain to fill my water bottle. She didn't know any English, but she still really wanted to help me, so she woke up her daughter, who knew....a few sentences, and in the end we found a fountain. It was a fun adventure. 

Once in Montreal there was an older couple that reminded me to re-check my baggage, a man that helped me get my "not-so-light" suitcase off the baggage carousel, a purple sweater wearing lady who shared my lost-ness when our flight was the only one listed without a gate number, an employee that asked if I needed guidance, and the lovely French man at the info desk that looked up my flight's gate for me. Let's not forget the guy from Poland, and the extremely kind Arabic lady who sat beside me and tried her very best to communicate with what English she knew. "I'm Arabic, going Halifax" was repeated quite a few times, but it was nice to have some interaction while we waited for our delayed plane. She was very grateful that I watched her bags while she ventured to find the washroom. She later even told me where the closest one was. We became such good acquaintances that the flight attendant helping her board even thought that we were flying together, which when I think about it, isn't such a strange idea after all. We are travelling together, each and everyone of us. Every person I mentioned was travelling with me, and I with them. That's why I believe it to be so important to recognize these experiences and create these experiences for others, because even though we may all be heading in different directions at different times, we're all travelling together on the journey called life.

These Pictures were taken in Freiburg right outside the Student Housing.

January 5, 2013

Unlawfully Dreaded Strife

Well as many of you know I have just returned from my first major vacation. Europe. It was lovely. The culture, the people, the sights, but the lovely experiences are not always the most memorable ones. That is why I have chosen to share with you about my run ins...(yes plural) with the police (Canadian), the polizei (German), the policii (Czech) AND le police (French). I kid you not, I had run ins with the law authorities in every country I visited except for Switzerland. 

It all started in my first airport, yes, within the first hour of my trip. The security guard was adamant on refusing my carryon. He told me over and over again that I had liquids in my backpack, but I knew that I did not. The female security officer took me aside and talked to me and searched my bag three times and finally let me through. Thank goodness for people in power that hold a balance of kindness. 

Security was a breeze in Frankfurt, aside for the 200+ line of people who didn't respect my personal space. But just because I wasn't bothered by the polizei in the airport does not mean I didn't meet them later. My encounter with the German police was one of the scariest moments in my life. The friend who I was staying with and I rented a car to drive us to Prague and back. We invited a fellow Canadian, packed our bags, and headed on our journey at 7:00am on December 27th (which also happened to be my birthday). We visited Neuschwanstein Castle (the one the Disney castle is based off of), the concentration camp in Dachau, and kept trucking towards our destination. It was around 7pm and we were a little distance from what we believed to be the Czech border (there's really no way to tell in those close knit European countries) and we saw a police car speed by. No siren blaring, just lights. They pulled in front of us and headed for the quickly approaching exit. They didn't exit, and instead circled our car again until we pulled over. One of the officers exited the ghost car and started barking at Kaly, telling her where to park. He reached in through the Driver's window and put on the emergency break, and continued to bark until finally I hit the four-way flashers. During this time the first officer was shouting at Kaly (all in German) asking her if she was stupid.

The second officer came to my side of the car and demanded the rental papers, which we had conveniently stored in the glove compartment. They matched the name on Kaly's licence. Then the second officer, who a long with the first was wearing casual clothing, demanded passports. I told him mine was in the trunk, so I got out of the car and raced to obtain my life line. The second officer leaned on the guard rail, and took his long mental flashlight and banged it aggressively on the rail which seemed every three seconds. I opened my pink polk-a-dotted luggage as fast as humanly possible and my hand dove for the passport that was mingled in amongst travel information and boarding passes. We surrendered our passports, and waited for what seemed to be a very long time. The second officer almost cracked a smile when he saw "Great Britain"  on one of the passports, but that moment quickly passed. They let us go, without any indication of why they pulled us over. Their last words were to me, in English: "Be safe, drive slowly." 
Drive slowly?!? We are the people that drive under 100 on the main highways. Of COURSE we are going to drive slowly, especially in a foreign country. Be safe?!? Of COURSE we are going to be safe. You know what was the least safe thing we did on the trip? Pull over on the main highway! The highway we were driving on was the Autobahn, and for those of you who do not know, very rarely does that highway have a speed limit (wikipedia even says so), and if it does....it is 130km. I can assure you we were not speeding. 

If you think that a police officer yelling at you and beating a weapon near you is a scary experience, just imagine that yelling in German, and it is amplified by 10, heck! When Germans say "thank you" "bitte", it sounds terrifying. I should also add that to this day it remains a mystery as to why we angered the German police. 

Our Czech policii experience was much more calm. We were very lost, and driving around the middle of the city of Prague (not a good idea). GPS was having a difficult time showing us where the information centre was....and truth be told we found it on our last day in Prague by just stumbling by it. We ended up in an area where many of the embassies were, and the police were checking vehicles. We really just needed a place to turn around, but that was difficult to communicate with them so we went through the check (no pun intended). An embarrassing part of this story is that we couldn't figure out how to pop the hood. We gave the police the car manuel, and he just smiled and told us to drive through. The two czech officers were extremely friendly, but even still I'm glad we only came across them the once. 

My experience with French police was the best definition of a close call. After a nice day trip in Strasbourg it was time to return to the Black Forest. We were on the wrong train twice, but finally got off of that train before it pulled away. We found out where we needed to be and ran at full speed and just made the train. We took the first seats we could find, but then a man entered that needed those seats, because they are the seats where you can hang a bicycle. We moved to the upper level and rested a bit. A few stops later, two male police officers boarded the train in uniform. I had my back to them so Kaly leaned in to inform me that they were checking people for passports. Mine was sitting on Kaly's nightstand. They checked a few people, and even the man directly behind me was fidgeting for his. I was very panicked. At first I thought there was a dangerous person on the train, like maybe the guy who sat near us on the way into France, who's backpack started smoking, and who was carrying a fancy gun case. Then my mind started spinning. I was sure I was going to end up deported, or worse, in French jail. I put my right hand over my eyes, and prayed with all my strength. The police disembarked the train at the next stop, and I kissed my passport when I returned home. 

Aside from the long lines that almost caused me to miss my connecting flight, security and customs in the airports on my way home were a breeze. I am very happy to be in the land of Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who have never pulled me over, terrified me, or barked at me in a foreign language. 
Road Check in Prague, Czech Republic
Police car in Freiburg, Germany

Police car in Freiburg, Germany